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April 1, 2009

Masterminds of Programming--New from O'Reilly: Conversations with Creators of Major Programming Languages

Masterminds of Programming Sebastopol, CA—What does it take to create a programming language? Sir Tony Hoare, winner of an ACM Turing Award and a Kyoto Award, and a leader in research into computing algorithms and programming languages for 50 years, wrote in his foreword to Masterminds of Programming (O'Reilly, US $39.99): "There are so many programmers who think they can design a programming language better than one they are currently using; and there are so many researchers who believe they can design a programming language better than any that are in current use. Their beliefs are often justified, but few of their designs ever leave the designer's bottom drawer." He adds, "You will not find them represented in this book."

Indeed, Masterminds of Programming, edited by Federico Biancuzzi and Shane Warden, is a collection of exclusive interviews with the creators of many historic and highly influential programming languages. Through these conversations, you'll learn about the processes that led to specific design decisions, including the goals these creators had in mind, the trade-offs they had to make, and how their experiences shape our own with regard to programming today.

Within the book's covers, you'll find fascinating comments such as Bjarne Stoustrup remarking, "I have never seen a program that could be written better in C than in C++. I don't think such a program could exist."

Charles "Chuck" H. Moore, creator of Forth, notes, "I have very little faith in systems analysts who work top-down. They decide what the problem is and then they factor it in such a way that it can be very difficult to implement."

Larry Wall tells us, "Even in its current, partially implemented form, Perl 6 is already a spectacularly cool language in many people's opinion, and when it's done it will, hopefully, be both self-describing and self-parsing using highly derivable grammars, and thus optimized to evolve smoothly into any kind of a language we might want 20 years from now."

In addition to Stoustrup, Moore, and Wall, Masterminds of Programming includes interviews with:

  • Adin D. Falkoff: APL
  • Thomas E. Kurtz: BASIC
  • Robin Milner: ML
  • Donald D. Chamberlin: SQL
  • Alfred Aho, Peter Weinberger, and Brian Kernighan: AWK
  • Charles Geschke and John Warnock: PostScript
  • Bertrand Meyer: Eiffel
  • Brad Cox and Tom Love: Objective-C
  • Simon Peyton Jones, Paul Hudak, Philip Wadler, and John Hughes: Haskell
  • Guido van Rossum: Python
  • Luiz Henrique de Figueiredo and Roberto Ierusalimschy: Lua
  • James Gosling: Java
  • Grady Booch, Ivar Jacobson, and James Rumbaugh: UML
  • Anders Hejlsberg: Delphi inventor and lead developer of C#

In Masterminds of Programming, you will discover some of the thinking and steps needed to build a successful language, what makes it popular, and how to approach the current problems that its programmers are facing.

As Biancuzzi says, "If you are looking for inspiring thoughts regarding software and programming languages, you will need a highlighter, or maybe two, because I promise that you will find plenty of them throughout these pages."

For a review copy or more information please email Please include your delivery address and contact information.

Federico Biancuzzi is a freelance interviewer. His interviews appeared on publications such as,,,,,,, the Polish print magazine BSD Magazine, and the Italian print magazine Linux&C.

Shane Warden manages Onyx Neon Press, an independent publisher. His areas of expertise include agile software development, language design, and virtual machines for dynamic languages. He is also a published novelist.

Additional Resources:
For more information about the book, including table of contents, index, author bios, and cover graphic, see:

Masterminds of Programming
Federico Biancuzzi, Shane Warden
ISBN: 9780596515171, 494 pages, Book Price: $39.99 USD, £30.99 GBP
PDF Price: $23.99 USD

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